This dissertation explores the impact of mainstream discourses of nationalism, gender, sexuality, race, and class on the development of lesbian and gay identities and communities in the United States in the early Cold War period (1945-1960) by analyzing the literary productions of several lesbian and gay writers. Placing neglected and forgotten texts alongside works by authors considered "canonical," I show how these writers responded in different ways to the dominant, anti-homosexual discourses that characterized the era. During this critically under-examined period in U.S. LGBT history, paranoia about Communist expansion led to the conflation, in the national imagination, of homosexuals with enemy agents, and government, mass media, the self-help establishment alike promoted the suburban nuclear family headed by a married heterosexual couple as an important line of national defense. Simultaneously, the 1950s saw the formation of the first public gay and lesbian rights organizations in the U.S., the publication of the country's first nationally-distributed lesbian and gay magazines, and an unprecedented flurry of novels published by gay and lesbian authors, ranging from high art to pulp paperback romance. In these conditions of seeming contradiction, of heavy state repression combined with optimism and new possibilities for self-expression, lesbians and gay men participated, through published writing, in a broad national conversation about the meanings of homosexuality. Gay and lesbian writers wrestled with the question of what it meant to be homosexual in the early Cold War United States, contested exclusionary and discriminatory understandings of the homosexual's place in society, and challenged the validity of rigid gender roles - as well as the United States' moral authority as the self-declared protector of democracy. The ways in which each individual author interacted with and responded to these hegemonic national discourses depended, to a great degree, on the author's specific social positioning within the interlocking hierarchies of privilege based on gender, sexuality, race, and class, as well as their larger ideological perspectives and political commitments. My dissertation teases out these specificities, illuminating previously unrecognized contributions to the national conversation about the meanings of homosexuality, examining the ways an author's multiple points of reference often led to the reproduction of competing ideologies within a single work. This project contributes to the work, within the field of LGBTQ Studies, of reclaiming and expanding the boundaries of a queer U.S. literary tradition by re-examining the textual productions of an era usually seen as a "dark age" between the social upheavals of World War II and the emergence of the gay liberation movement in the late 1960s. At the same time, by placing the discursive processes by which the meanings of homosexuality were negotiated during this period, highlighting the state of flux itself, my analysis makes it impossible to refer to a unitary gay, lesbian, or "homosexual" experience, viewpoint, or identity.
University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. June 2009. Major: American Studies: Advisor: Dr. Edén Torres. 1 computer file (PDF); v, 264 pages.
Galik, Angela E..
Queer texts and the Cold War: how nationalism shaped U.S. lesbian and gay writing, 1945-1960..
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